Did you know that the nursing shortage is expected to increase in the coming years? Baby boomers are aging and a significant portion of the nursing profession is reaching retirement age. In March 2020, it was estimated that 22% of the 2 million registered nurses (RNs) who work in hospitals were 55 or older.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also estimates the nursing profession will experience 9% job growth by 2030, faster than the average job market, making now the perfect time to pursue nursing as a career.
Nurses have significant benefits and options. These include working in different medical specialties and finding employment in various workplaces for RNs.
For example, you can specialize in pediatrics and work only with children or work as a surgical nurse in the operating room. You may choose to work in a hospital, clinic, or school. You can also become a correctional nurse and work in a prison facility or choose an alternate path with a government agency or large corporation. Additionally, there is more than one way to become an RN.
You can enroll in a two-year program for your associate degree in nursing (ADN). After earning your ADN, you can make an average annual salary of $71,000 according to September 2021 data from PayScale. While you are working, you can complete an online RN to bachelor of science in nursing (RN-to-BSN) program. You may also choose to enroll in accredited four-year BSN degree programs or online accelerated BSN programs. Though not required, more opportunities are available if you choose to earn a master's or doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree.
Nursing offers many entry-level nursing options, specialties, and working environments. Read on for 16 reasons why choosing a career in nursing might be a meaningful path for you.
1. Nurses Make a Real Difference
Nurses do much more than perform medical tasks. As a nurse, you can make a real difference in someone's life. You can offer hope to people, sometimes during the worst time of their life. Nurses often counsel patients and families after a devastating diagnosis, celebrate with them when they receive good news, and become trusted confidantes.
Nurses can also improve their communities through volunteering. In a 2017 survey, 74% of nurses pointed to nonjob-related activities when asked what they had done to improve their community's health. Activities included health fairs, health-related volunteering, raising or donating money, and traveling for volunteer work.
2. Nursing Degree Programs Exist Everywhere
The National Center for Education Statistics ranks health professions in the top three associate degrees by the number of graduates. Bachelor's degrees are in the top two. Most large cities have a selection of colleges and universities that offer an ADN or BSN program. For example, check out the top RN-to-BSN programs in Ohio, nursing schools in Arizona, and online colleges in Alabama.
3. Nurses Can Pursue Their Education Online
You can also choose to get your nursing degree through accredited online nursing programs, which means you can be located anywhere in the U.S. Since nursing is a hands-on profession, you will be required to both take classes online and complete in-person nursing clinicals at a healthcare setting.
It's important to ensure the online program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing or Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. This is necessary to take the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN) and master NCLEX-style test questions to get your license.
4. Many Nursing Students Find Financial Aid Opportunities
Student debt can be overwhelming. Payback programs can take up to a decade to pay off. However, nursing students have many ways to get nursing school paid for. These include nursing scholarships and grant money from a range of organizations. Financial aid is available for students seeking an associate, bachelor's, master's, and even DNP degree. Also, many hospitals offer tuition remission programs for staff looking to go back to school.
Financing your nursing school education doesn't have to leave you in a large amount of debt.
5. Nurses Can Enter the Workforce Relatively Quickly
Several different nursing degrees allow you to enter the workforce quickly. If you return to school to complete your bachelor's degree, you can do it while earning an income. After graduating from an accredited two-year associate program, you can make an average annual salary of $71,000 with some of the highest-paying associate degrees. Earning your BSN degree opens more opportunities for career advancement and an average annual salary of $87,000 as per PayScale in September 2021.
6. Nurses Have a High Level of Job Satisfaction
Job satisfaction and career satisfaction are different. The first measures satisfaction with a specific job, while the second measures satisfaction with your career choice. The 2019 American Mobile Nurses (AMN) Healthcare survey found that 81% of nurses were satisfied or extremely satisfied with their career choice.
When asked if they would encourage others to become a nurse, 70% said "yes." The survey also found that supporting professional development was tied to job satisfaction. When employers supported nursing professional development, 52% were extremely satisfied with their jobs. When employers did not support professional development, only 7% were extremely satisfied.
7. Nurses Get to Do Exciting Work
Each day can be different when you're working with patients. Whether you are working in a clinic, office, hospital, or within an organization, nursing is not dull. In the 2017 Survey of Registered Nurses by AMN Healthcare, data showed nurses had plans to work outside direct patient care, could work fewer hours depending on their situation, and some planned to go into travel nursing.
8. Nursing Is a Respected Field
In 1999, Gallup started a decades-long survey to determine the most ethical and honest profession. In December 2020, for an impressive 19 years, Americans ranked nurses in the number one position. The only year nurses were not in the top spot was following September 11, 2001, when firefighters earned the highest score.
In addition to ranking first, nurses also earned the highest score to date in 2020 for honesty and ethics. In 2020, the ranking was four percentage points higher than the last recorded high in 2019.
9. Nurses Can Choose Their Specialty
Nurses are a vital part of delivering healthcare in many different settings. You can choose from over 100 different types of nursing specialties, which means you'll likely never be bored. You can focus on general healthcare such as gerontological nursing, or expand your role to work as a flight nurse or transplant nurse. You can also pursue health policy careers.
Another benefit is how easily you can move from one specialty to another. For example, after practicing as a dialysis nurse, you may wish to try traveling nursing jobs. If you are an experienced specialty nurse, you may be able to take your pick of assignments. If you want to move to be a labor and delivery nurse, you'll need some hands-on experience and continuing education for nurses before finding a new position.
10. Nurses Work in a Stable Industry
By 2030, the baby boomer generation will have reached age 65. Up to 85% of older adults have at least one chronic health condition, and 60% have at least two. According to the BLS, nurses are in demand to care for a growing population of people with chronic disease. The expected job growth ranges from 9% for RNs to 52% for nurse practitioners.
11. Nurses Receive Excellent Benefits
Hospitals, clinics, and doctors' offices may offer excellent benefits to attract and keep qualified professionals. For example, a nurse's average annual salary of $75,330 according to the BLS is well above $56,310, which is the average annual salary of all occupations.
Travel nursing may receive added benefits for the inconvenience of living and working in another city. These can include benefits to cover travel expenses and a stipend for housing, meals, and other bills
Benefits for nurses include:
12. Nurses Develop Transferable Career Skills
Nursing offers you the opportunity to adapt your professional life to fit your lifestyle. For example, you'll find work in a variety of geographical locations and work environments. You may choose to work full time or part time and may choose from shifts as short as 4 hours and as long as 12.
In your first year of nursing school, you'll develop and hone nursing skills like critical thinking, communication, and organizational skills. You will develop the ability to remain calm and cool in an emergency. These skills can help you transition from clinical nursing to other options: nursing administration, nonprofit management in nursing, public health nursing, correctional facilities, or being a missionary nurse in clinics across the world.
13. Nursing Grads Have Smoother New Hire Transitions
All nurses experience a transition as they move from an academic to a clinical setting after graduating as a nurse. For many nurses working in large teaching hospitals, this transition may be eased by the hospital's one-year nurse residency programs designed to help new nurses successfully transition from school to various work settings for nurses.
Although there is a nursing shortage across the U.S., it is still challenging to get a premium job. You can improve your success by working while you're in school to gain nursing experience and accept internships. Nursing students who gain volunteer experience and professionally network while in nursing school also have an advantage when it's time to apply for their first job.
14. Nurses Collaborate With Different Healthcare Professionals
Nurses play a unique role in healthcare. They are the only consistent healthcare professionals with the patient at their bedside, so they can collaborate with healthcare teams to coordinate patient care and improve outcomes.
The bedside nurse is the hub of patient activity. They know the recommendations of each healthcare professional attending the patient. Nurses with strong organizational and critical thinking skills can make sure each knows how their recommendation affects the overall care plan.
15. Nurses Have Many Leadership Opportunities
The skills you learn caring for patients can help as you take on the charge nurse role on the unit. Charge nurses must assign patient care and monitor the staff, making adjustments as needed during the shift. Nurses who exhibit strong nursing leadership skills may go on to take positions in administration, such as unit manager, clinical nurse leader, or patient care director.
You can also take advantage of leadership roles in clinical practice, including advanced practice nurses, clinical specialists, and case managers. Nursing offers several avenues to take additional responsibility and progress up the career ladder.
16. Nurses Are at the Forefront of the Telemedicine Movement
In 1879 an article appeared in The Lancet discussing the use of telephones to reduce the number of unnecessary office visits. By 1925, inventors were envisioning the use of video-type devices that would enable doctors to diagnose and treat patients. Telehealth nursing advanced significantly during 2020 when healthcare providers began treating patients at home to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
For instance, the need for remote telemonitoring for patients in the intensive care unit or at home continues to grow. Remote monitoring can reduce costs for a hospital or physician's office without sacrificing patient care.
Nurses are also integral to patient consultations, taking patient histories and coordinating care at home. They are often the primary source of health education and monitoring. Incorporating telehealth services has given nurses a new tool to improve patient outcomes and satisfaction.
Frequently Asked Questions About Nursing Careers
What are the reasons for choosing nursing as a career?
There are a variety of reasons for choosing nursing as a career. However, most nurses choose to work in the profession to help others live better lives. Whether you work in a hospital, clinic, missionary clinic overseas, administration, or correctional facility, the underlying reason most nurses choose the profession is to make life better for other people.
How hard is it to become a nurse?
You can become a nurse in as little as two years and make more money than the average annual salary of all other occupations. Once you have a two-year ADN you can advance your career options and salary by earning a BSN degree. You can do this online or in the classroom while continuing to work. This helps reduce potential school debt since many hospitals offer tuition reimbursement. You can also earn an accelerated BSN degree if you hold a bachelor's in another field.
What qualities do you need to be a nurse?
Nurses are compassionate, patient, and understanding. They have strong critical thinking, communication, and organizational skills. You may not have these skills at the start of your nursing education but will develop them in your nursing program and hone them in your practice.
Nurses have a deep desire to learn; they are empathetic and respectful to others.
How do I know if nursing is right for me?
Having certain qualities can help you be a successful nurse. These include compassion, a sense of advocacy, and the ability to anticipate issues. If you are curious to learn more about health and wellness and have a desire to help others, consider speaking with an admission counselor at your local college or university. You may also want to consider volunteering in a hospital or shadowing a nurse for a shift.
Elizabeth Clarke (Poon) is a board-certified family nurse practitioner who provides primary and urgent care to pediatric populations. She earned a BSN and a master's in nursing from the University of Miami.
Clarke is a paid member of our Healthcare Review Partner Network. Learn more about our review partners.
NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?
Popular Nursing Resources
Resources and articles written by professionals and other nurses like you.